Thursday, August 26, 2010

The importance of blocking

Those of you who don't knit probably don't know that sometimes after casting-off the knitter has to work some extra magic. With sweaters we have to make sure that both sleeves are of equal length, with cardigans we need to check that both fronts are even. And when we knit lace, we want people to see the beauty of the pattern.

The thing that helps us do all of these is called blocking. Let me show you how it works.

I'm going to use a small piece of lace work, knitted with ostrich plumes pattern. This is what it looks like right after casting-off:

Not very lacy - and far from what can be seen in these shawls. Notice the rolling edges:

You don't want that with your lace, do you?

So let the magic begin...

1. Soak your piece

I usually leave it for several minutes in cool water with a few drops of fabric softener. But I do that only with fresh knitwear, something straight off the needles. When it's been used, and you wash it, sometimes you may need to repeat the process - it all depends on the yarn and pattern used. In that case just wash it in delicate wool detergent and rinse. Gently squeeze the water out and lay flat to dry. Don't let it dry completely - the piece should be moist before you put the pins in it:)

2. Stretch it out, pin it in

Lace patterns often form the most interesting edges: triangular, wavy, or even square. But sometimes they need our help to show off their entire beauty. You'll need pins and a large flat surface you can stick them in. Look at the pattern of your piece and figure out where exactly you need to place the pins. This is how you'll give your piece a proper shape. It's not very complicated - just lay your piece flat and pick the places that stick out the most. Like here:

When you put the pins in, remember to stretch the piece gently. Not too much, or it will tear, but you have to feel a little resistance. The stronger you pull, the flatter it will get - and the borders will be more prominent.

Do you see how the piece pulls back? That's how it's supposed to be:)

Oh, and if you forget you were going do some blocking, and your piece gets completely dry, don't worry, just spray some clean water on it. You can even pin it in first, and then do the spraying. Just remember to check if your piece is stretched enough - wet yarn is more flexible than dry one, so you may need to pull it a bit more.

3. Leave it to dry

Blocked knitwear dries faster - it has thinner yarn and larger surface. But it doesn't mean you have to unpin it five minutes later. I'm not good at physics, but I think that the longer you shape your piece, the more permanent that shape will be. So sometimes I grab my spray-bottle and wet it again:) And I take the pins out much, much later:)

But the shape stays:

And there are no rolling edges:

Not even when you move it:

And that's how the magic is done:)

Remember - you may not need to repeat this process every time you wash your knitwear. With some pieces you won't have to do it at all. It depends on the yarn (some fibers have better "memory" and need to be blocked just once). And with time, even the most stubborn thread will give up and stay exactly where you want it to stay:)

I hope this tutorial helps you bring out the beauty of your clothes or projects. If you have any questions, drop me a line or leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.

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